Seven eligible freshmen, including Andre Johnson and DeMarcus Ware, were among the 26 semi-finalists of the modern era nominated for the Professional Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
The semi-finalists, 26 in total due to a tie vote, will be reduced to 15 finalists next month. The Class of 22, which can include up to five modern-day players, will be officially announced on February 10 during the NFL Honors.
Johnson, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, and Ware, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, each played their last game in 2016 and were in their first year of eligibility. Also among the semi-finalists this year and in their first year of eligibility were Anquan Boldin, Devin Hester, Robert Mathis, Steve Smith and Vince Wilfork.
The other semi-finalists are: Eric Allen, Jared Allen, Willie Anderson, Ronde Barber, Tony Boselli, LeRoy Butler, Eddie George, Torry Holt, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour, Steve Tasker, Fred Taylor, Zach Thomas, Hines Ward, Rickey Watters, Reggie Wayne, Patrick Willis, Darren Woodson and Bryant Young.
Jared Allen, Barber, Boselli, Butler, Holt, Mills, Seymour, Thomas and Wayne were all finalists last year. Boselli has been a finalist five times and Seymour has been a finalist three times.
Young was a finalist in 2020.
Among this year’s semi-finalists, Hester and Tasker are widely considered due to their special-team play, but they are among the eight players on the roster who have played wide receiver.
Smith is currently eighth all-time in receiving yards, Wayne is 10th, Johnson is 11th, Boldin 14th, Holt 16th and Ward is 27th.
Ware, who ended his career with three years with the Denver Broncos after with the Dallas Cowboys, is 13th all-time for bags with 138.5. Jared Allen, who is a semi-finalist for the second time, is 16th all-time with 136 sacks.
Dick Vermeil, selected by the senior committee, is already a finalist as a coach, Cliff Branch is the senior finalist and Art McNally is a finalist as a contributor. All three were chosen earlier this year.
Hall of Fame inductions in Canton, Ohio will take place in early August.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.